How Millennials are changing B2B marketing

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Millennials: The new decision makers

Whether they are subject matter experts supporting a team decision or singularly responsible for selecting a vendor, Millennials are having a profound impact on their organizations and the B2B vendors who want to do business with them. As more Millennials move into decision making roles at work, or start their own companies where they are in charge, the influence they wield over B2B purchasing will only continue to grow. This is the second report in our multigenerational, global Millennial study series. This report explores the preferences and practices of those who influence B2B purchasing decisions. Just as consumer marketing is changing to appeal to Millennials, our findings show that B2B marketers also need to revamp their strategies to connect with this new generation of decision makers.

Millennials—the largest generation since the Baby Boomers—are the new darlings being targeted by marketers. Much has been written about the Millennial consumer: the most educated, most tech-savvy, most connected, thrifty, and socially and environmentally conscious. These digital natives are the force that’s driving a new era for consumer marketing, one focused on values, transparency, relevancy and engagement.

But what about business-to-business (B2B) marketing? Increasingly, Millennials are assuming positions at work where they influence purchasing decisions. How do their consumer shopping habits impact their attitudes and approach for researching business products and services and engaging with vendors?

To find out, we surveyed 704 individuals who influence or are responsible for B2B purchasing decisions of US$10,000 or more for their company. They come from organizations large and small, across 12 countries and 6 targeted industries. When we compared the responses of Millennial employees (born 1980–1993) with those of Gen X (born 1965–1979) and Baby Boomers (born 1954–1964), we discovered Millennials’ behavior differs somewhat from their older colleagues, and their consumer practices do effect their B2B purchasing expectations (with a few surprising exceptions).

Millennials, even more than Gen X or Baby Boomers, prize a hassle-free, omni-channel client experience personalized to their specific needs. They want data, speed and trusted advisors who are eager to collaborate.

In this report, we explore how Millennials’ approach for general decision making at work compares with that of Gen X and Baby Boomers. Then we take a deep dive into our respondents’ current and preferred practices for various activities in their B2B purchasing journey, including researching, engaging vendors, deciding to buy and finally, sharing their experience.

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Additional content

Meet the author

Carolyn Heller Baird, Global Research Leader for Customer Experience and Design, IBM Institute for Business Value

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